M.A., Politics Concentration | Columbia Journalism School

M.A., Politics Concentration

Explore power and government the world over

Whether you intend to cover local government or international conflict, every political journalist needs a framework for understanding how politics works.

What You'll Study

The M.A. Politics concentration aims to teach students how to think more deeply about social and politics affairs. The program is designed to add to students’ toolbox of skills by showing them the way in which social scientists approach a range of social, political and economic problems. Unlike a program in international affairs or political science, the program is geared specifically to journalists and all writing is journalistic. The in-depth immersion in the latest scholarship on politics produces better political journalists — ones who are comfortable drawing on expert research to produce stores of greater depth and nuance.

In the fall, students in the M.A. Politics seminar will learn about the formation of the nation state — why it won out over sprawling, multi-ethnic empires or city states. We use this rich scholarship to help us understand why there is not a coherent central state in Afghanistan or Somalia. Students will learn about the origins of nationalism: why are people willing to die — and kill — for something (the nation) that made little sense to people of earlier centuries? They use that understanding to decode emerging situations of ethnic conflict, resurgent nationalism and populism. The seminar also examines the dynamics of collective behavior — what happens when people get together to effect change, and under what circumstances do political and social movements succeed or fail? Scholars from relevant fields and journalists covering these issues will visit the class on a regular basis. Recent guests have included Cornell behavioral economist Robert Frank, journalist William Finnegan and historian Mahmood Mamdani. 

The spring semester focuses on political institutions. Just about everywhere in the world, there are political parties, interest groups, legislatures, executives, judiciaries, regulatory agencies and so on. The seminar looks at how these developed and the varied forms they take, using the United States as the primary, but not exclusive, example. Readings are a mix of political theory, empirical political science and journalism. Assignments aim to teach students to understand the political personalities and events that journalists cover in an institutional context. Recent guests include journalist Emily Bazelon and political scientist Robert Y. Shapiro.



Student Work

Bevertone Kipchumba Some's, '17 M.A., Master's Thesis about Kenya's response to al-Shabaab terrorist attacks was published in New Africa. His report concludes how innocent Kenyans have withstood the worst of the fight between the Kenyan military and al-Shabaab.

Alumni Work

Casey Parks, '18 M.A. Politics, is a contributor to The New Yorker and a reporter for The Hechinger Report where she covers Louisiana's and Mississippi's education systems. Her latest piece, "A College Degree More Than Fifteen Years In The Making" captures the story of single mother of two and her quest to earn a college degree from a historically black university in Mississippi. 

Katie Worth, '15 M.A. Politics

Katie Worth, '15 M.A. Politics, is an investigative reporter at Frontline PBS. She won a 2018 Online News Association Award for Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling for The Last Generation, a cinematic interactive story that brings audiences into the lives of three children in the Marshall Islands who face losing not just their homes, but their entire nation, to rising seas.